The Devils Feast is the first feature film shot on digital video to be made in the UK. It was shot in 1998 and was premiered at the Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford on 26th November 1999.
The film follows Chloe Mason is an up-and-coming conceptual artist whose controversial exhibition The Devils Feast has opened both to rave reviews and condemnation. Her work is sexual, political, provocative and blasphemous - and open to a wide range of interpretations. To some critics, she’s the new Picasso, to others her entire exhibition is a load of meaningless crap.
But whether Chloe Mason is any good or not is almost immaterial. The question is: what sort of person produces work like this? Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about Chloe and the series of events that have led up to The Devils Feast.
We also meet the characters whose lives interact with Chloe, inspiring her artistic output. There’s her best friend, Janet, a single mother who is constantly searching for the right man in all the wrong places, and Sticks, the idealistic editor of a local anarchist magazine who becomes Chloe’s boyfriend. And then there’s Paul the leader of a mysterious religious cult: just what is he up to?
Like the exhibition of the title, The Devils Feast tackles head-on such weighty topics as religion, sex and politics, throwing in drugs and violence for good measure. And like Chloe Mason’s work, audiences can interpret this film in different ways: is it a psychological drama or a black comedy? The Devils Feast has an anarchic energy always keeps the viewer guessing! With its complex, multi-stranded story structure, an improvised script, and a gritty realism achieved through the use of hand-held cameras, The Devils Feast straddles the rarely explored middle-ground between Ken Loach and Quentin Tarantino.
April 28, 2007 Subject:
Gritty drama based in Oxford
We’re all used to the fact that Oxford is just an extension of Pinewood studios. Whether it’s Sean Connery, Val Kilmer or the cast of Morse you can’t move for camera crews trying to capture a bit of that spire-dreaming splendour. Yet when was the last time that you saw a genuine home-grown Oxford film; not just a 10 minute short but a full-length production featuring real people and showing the town as it actually is, rather than in that rose-tinted, genetically-modified, contrived romantic way that the outside world likes to believe is the Oxford reality.
The Devil’s Feast tries to bridge this gap, and could not be accused of airbrushing either the characters or the subjects covered. The plot is explored in retrospect – conceptual artist Chloé Mason returns to Oxford after a two-year break, during which time she has staged a highly successful (and controversial) exhibition of sexually explicit material in London. This work is never seen, but the graphic nature of her art is described in some depth during the course of an Oxygen interview. The purpose of the disjointed narrative is to slowly build up a picture of Chloe (and her friends & influences) to try and define exactly what factors lead to her creativity manifesting itself in such extremist ways.
Chloé becomes involved with Sticks, part-time editor of a left-wing magazine, and a motley selection of his acquaintances. When Chloé’s accommodation falls through they decide to move in together, forcing them into a level of intimacy that neither is quite ready to deal with. Advice is always on hand from her best friend Janet, a single mother, who becomes involved in relationship out of her depth but never fully realises the extent of the problem due to communication difficulties. Parallel to these emotional traumas we are also introduced to a sinister cult, the ‘Warriors for Jesus’, who have slightly less than Christian intentions towards their brainwashed members. When they harass Sticks in the street he sets out to uncover their true intentions to expose them in the magazine. Chloé also grows interested in them, but with a completely different objective...
Through hand-held video work and script improvisation The Devil’s Feast manages to make you feel claustrophobically close to the characters but never tries to make you like them. Chloé is a deeply disturbed individual with so many unsolved problems that you know she’s not someone you’d actually want to be acquainted with, but you completely believe in her existence. This is where the film makes its masterstroke, since it is not particularly well shot, the plot is not that interesting and the acting is not that good, but all of this merely adds to the reality of the piece. The more their (and the film’s) imperfections are highlighted the more believable it all seems. Although not successful on all the levels it is trying to cover, The Devil’s Feast is a creditable attempt at gritty human drama with a sardonic edge, and a welcome antidote to Brideshead Revisited.